Suaiya Akhter Bably

The story of a visually impaired girl's quest for education

Suaiya Akhter Bably is a sixteen year old girl who was born with a visual disability. The third of four girls in her family, Bably was born blind, as was her younger sister. At the age of 5 years, Bably began to develop some sight, such that she now has partial vision in bright light.

Bably began her education at a local primary school in her home district of Nilpharmari. Her enrolment was not without difficulty, with Bably facing considerable social prejudice in view of her visual disability in addition to the fact that she was female. Being visually disabled, her school mates did not wish to play with her, instead teasing her about her visual impairment and calling her names. Despite these obstacles, Bably was determined to pursue her studies. Unable to see the blackboard or read the books at her school, Bably was able to study only through committing to memory the words of her teachers. Only if she left the darkened classroom and sat in the sunlit corridor outside her classroom was she able to see enough to write anything. Bably continued her education in this manner for 10 years. However when she went to sit for her Senior Secondary Certificate (SSC), she struck an insurmountable problem. Unable to see to write in the darkened examination hall room, Bably could not complete the examination. Her teachers were unable find a solution to this problem and Bably was forced to stop her education.

When BPKS commenced its PSID project in her home district of Nilpharmari, Bably and her younger sister were identified by the grassroots survey team. The sisters were introduced to BPKS and its PSID approach, and enrolled themselves in a Grassroots Disabled Peoples' Organization to Development (GDPOD) close to her home. Bably became heavily involved in the GDPOD activities and was elected as Finance Secretary of the GDPOD and chairperson of the Women with Disabilities (WWD) Committee. As a GDPOD member, Bably received several trainings from BPKS which empowered her and gave her more self-confidence. Staff at the Nilpharmari PSID Center motivated Bably and her father and encouraged her to recommence her studies.

Nilpharmari PSID Center assisted Bably to enroll in a better school and provided her with educational supports including education materials, school tuition fees and an allowance for private tutors. Initially the Head-Master of her new school was reluctant to admit Bably on the grounds of her visual impairment – affirming that if girls of normal physique were not always able to pass the SSC examination it would not be possible for a girl with a visual impairment. In fact, Bably was only granted admission to the school after much negotiation by her father and on the condition that if Bably did not secure first position in her class, the Head Master would be able to expel her from the school. Her younger sister was also assisted by BPKS to enroll in another school in a nearby district. Bably re-commenced her studies with only six months time before her final examination but with newly found hope and aspirations. With serious commitment and endeavours even in such a short space of time Bably was able to secure first position in her class' final examination. In 2007 she successfully passed the SSC Examination, securing a grade point average of 4.45 out of 5.

Bably is currently receiving computer training at BPKS Headquarters, where she is also being taught Braille. She has been admitted to study for her Higher School Certificate (HSC) at a government college for girls in Dhaka . After obtaining this higher academic qualification she aims to have a work-oriented, productive life. Bably dreams of returning to her native town and establishing an educational institution for visually impaired children where they can learn Braille. She plans to dedicate her life to the welfare and emancipation of visually impaired children. Bably does not want to reflect on the difficulties and hurdles she faced as a child, but rather wants to forget this. BPKS has salvaged her and dragged her out from the world of frustration she was in – she now has a bright and positive future ahead of her.